Toyota fighting back after claims made about its electronics

By KEN THOMAS and STEPHEN MANNING
Associated Press Writers
WASHINGTON (AP) - Toyota Motor Corp. plans to rebut claims that
the electronics of its cars and trucks are to blame for unwanted
acceleration problems that are behind the recall of more than eight
million vehicles.
The automaker will hold a demonstration Monday afternoon to
counter tests by an engineering professor that show Toyota engines
can be revved by tinkering with the electronics that control
acceleration. Many safety experts have suggested electronics are to
blame for vehicles that speed of unexpectedly.
Toyota believes that sticky gas pedals and floor mats are to the
cause, and the automaker is in the process of fixing millions of
vehicles to correct those conditions. But some drivers have
reported continued problems in vehicles that have already been
fixed.
Toyota will aim to duplicate the scenario created by David W.
Gilbert, an automotive technology professor at Southern Illinois
University Carbondale. Gilbert told Congress last month he was able
to recreate unwanted acceleration in a Toyota vehicle by
manipulating its electronics.
The company is calling in the director of Stanford University's
Center for Automotive Research to try to refute the claims. Toyota
said Stanford professor Chris Gerdes will show that the
malfunctions Gilbert produced "are completely unrealistic under
real-world conditions and can easily be reproduced on a wide range
of vehicles made by other manufacturers."
Stanford's Center for Automotive Research is funded by a group
of auto companies, including Toyota.
Toyota also has hired a consulting firm to study whether
electronic problems could cause unintended acceleration. The firm,
Exponent Inc., released an interim report that has found no link
between the two.
Gilbert told a congressional hearing on Feb. 23 that he was able
to recreate sudden acceleration in a Toyota Tundra, which is
covered by two recalls, by short-circuiting the electronic
accelerator pedal without triggering any trouble codes in the
truck's computer.
Gilbert, during the hearing, said he made a "startling
discovery" that showed the electronic throttle control system
could have a problem without producing a trouble code. Without a
code, the vehicle's computer will not enter in a fail-safe mode
that would lead to the brake overriding the accelerator.
House lawmakers seized on Gilbert's testimony as evidence that
Toyota engineers missed a potential problem with the electronics
that could have caused some vehicles to suddenly surge forward
without any warning.
According to an Exponent report last week, Gilbert connected
sensor wires from the pedal of a 2010 Toyota Avalon to an
engineered circuit. This allowed him to rev the engine without
using the pedal. Gilbert demonstrated the method in an ABC News
story last month.
Exponent said it reproduced the test on the same model year
Avalon and a 2007 Camry and was able to rev the engine. But it
concluded that the electronic throttle system would have to be
tampered with significantly to create the right conditions.
"Dr. Gilbert's scenario amounts to connecting the accelerator
pedal sensors to an engineered circuit that would be highly
unlikely to occur naturally, and that can only be contrived in a
laboratory," the report states.
Exponent was also able to rev the engine of some Toyota
competitors using the same technique. The report stresses the tests
do not imply there is any defect with those other brands.
The event planned Monday is part of a broad campaign by the
world's biggest automaker to discredit critics, repair its damaged
reputation and begin restoring trust in its vehicles.
On Friday, a congressional committee questioned Toyota's efforts
to find the causes of the problems. It also questioned whether the
company had sufficiently investigated the issue of electronic
defects.
Toyota executives also will address recall issues at its annual
suppliers meeting in Kentucky on Tuesday.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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